Surface Pro is the number one Windows tablet for artists, but the user interfaces on most 3d graphics applications don't pass the touch (or pen) test.

NOTE: I stopped updating this post in October, 2013. However, much of what runs on the Surface Pro 2 should also work with the original Surface Pro. Applications that have had compatibility issues with display drivers such as Autodesk Mudbox will likely break if you attempt to update the SP1.

One of the principal objectives of this blog is to help take the guesswork out of making your purchasing decision. I'm taking the time to install and determine whether these creative applications run so you won't have to. 

Here's what I've installed and tested so far: 

Adobe

 

ArtRage 4 - runs, recommended

Autodesk 

  •  3DS Max 2014, 2013 - runs
  • Maya 2014, 2013  - runs
  • Maya LT 2014 - runs
  • Mudbox 2014, 2013  - incompatible, requires discrete graphics
  • Mudbox 2010 x64 - runs
  • Sketchbook Designer 2014, 2103  - runs, pressure sensitivity corrected with Wacom Feel driver update
  • Sketchbook Pro 6.2.3  - runs, recommended
  • Softimage 2014, 2013  - runs

Blender  2.68 - runs, not recommended: interface tool small, not scaleable, scaling reacts to pen movement

Celsys

  • Clip Studio Paint 1.2.7 - runs, recommended (Japanese language)
  • Clip Studio Modeler Beta 0.9.0 - runs (Japanese language)

Corel

  • Corel Draw x6 - runs
  • Corel Painter x3 -runs

 

Gimp 2.8.6 - runs 

Lumion Keyshot 4.1.35 - runs

 

 

Luxology/Foundry Modo 701601 SP5 - runs, set input device to tablet 

Maxon Cinema 4D Studio R14 - TBD

Newtek Lightwave 11.5 - runs, with pen control issues

Pilgway 3D-Coat 4.0.03 - runs  

Pixologic

 

61 Solutions Mischief 1.08 - runs

Smith Micro

  • Anime Studio Pro 9.5 - runs
  • Manga Studio 5, 5 EX - runs, recommended (update to 5.0.3)
  • Motion Artist 1.1 - runs
  • Poser Pro 2010 - runs

 

 

 

Speedy Painter 3.0.7 - runs

TeamUP (Lagoa) MultiOptics - runs, Chrome only

Toonboom Animate Pro 3 - runs

Trimble Sketchup 2013 - runs 

Triple Squid Software Design Moments of Inspiration 2.0 (Moi3D) - runs  

Unity Pro 4.3.0b5 - runs, touch response unreliable. Works with mouse, capacitive stylus.

Would you like me to test any other programs? Please leave a comment below.

Kudos to reader Rick Malambri (@RickMalambri), who alerted us to the following: 

...there is a work around for Sculptris as well as Sketchbook Pro. If you had previously installed the latest Intel HD drivers (which everything ran fine on), and then you updated your surface with the latest firmware/updates, it overwrites the HD drivers, which causes conflicts with a some software (this includes SBP and Scultris). To fix this, just reinstall the latest HD drivers from the Intel website and everything should be back to working perfectly again.
PS: once you install those Intel drivers, Microsoft's update will say there is a new update to install. DO NOT install it, as it will revert back to old drivers and cause the issues again.
Hope this helps!!

The required Intel HD4000 driver is 15.31.3.64.3071 (9.17.10.3071). It is available 
for download from the Intel downloadcenter  or this direct link.

I installed it just now and confirmed that Sculptris runs again. And, even better, the driver allows you to enable canvas rotation in Sketchbook Pro. This latter crash bug sent us into a bit of a panic Friday!

UPDATE: Due to the nature of this site, I'm forced to install and uninstall more software than is wise. Can't say for sure whether that or one of Microsoft's latest round of updates (including today's firmware update) may have caused my Surface Pro to revert to older graphics drivers once again keeping Sculptris from launching. 

I downloaded and installed the May 10, 2013 (15.31.9.64.3165 or 9.18.10.3165) driver from the Intel download center and Sculptris runs again.


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AuthorRick Rodriguez
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The trouble running Sculptris this morning prompted me to finally install ZBrush 4R5 onto the Surface Pro and I'm happy to report that the software runs surprisingly well.

I'm not a fan of the software's interface and it is especially cluttered on the Surface Pro, but it is impressive how responsive it is.

The video below by YouTube user Andrewty07 was recorded a while back before Wacom's updated drivers were released, but it gives a good idea of the experience of running ZBrush on the tablet.

We hope that Sculptris will run again, but the fact the software is free and still in Alpha (even though it hasn't been updated in several years) doesn't have us feeling too optimistic.

For more info on ZBrush, visit the Pixologic website.

UPDATE: A new Intel HD4000 driver corrects the problem with Sculptris. Read this post for more details.


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Autodesk Mudbox 2014 is now available for download, but Surface Pro and other Windows 8 tablet users will have to continue looking elsewhere for their 3d sculpting needs.

As we discovered last month with version 2013, Mudbox refuses to run on equipment without discrete graphics hardware. Unlike that version, the current update will allow you to install it on your tablet, but when you run the program you will see the error below.

MudboxError.png

This is a shame because Mudbox offers the least cluttered interface of the major sculpting applications and we had high hopes for its suitability on the Surface Pro.

So it looks like we'll have to stick with Sculptris until someone develops a more touch-friendly sculpting app for Win8 artists.

UPDATE: Blog reader Jet Trevor suggested that I check older versions of Mudox that didn't require discrete graphics. I confirmed that Mudbox 2010 x64 installed and runs well. Versions 2009 and 2011 should also run. I will update this post if I am able to test either of those.

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AuthorRick Rodriguez
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UPDATE May 19, 2013: Recent updates have rendered Sculptris inoperable on the Surface Pro. See the story here

UPDATE 2: Installing updated Intel HD4000 drivers will restore Sculptris functionality. For more details, see this post. 

 

When I first began considering the prospect of 3d modeling on the Surface Pro, I knew it would be a tall order.

I haven't worked with a screen smaller than 17-inches for over a decade and the latest 27-inch touch-enabled all-in-one behemoths like the Dell XPS One set my pulse racing. In fact, the only thing that's held me back from investing in one of these is the lack of pen support. 

I've also been an iPad user from day 1 and I find nothing beats the intimacy of working with a tablet. Unfortunately, Apple hasn't seen fit to offer pen pressure-sensitivity and the several 3d apps available on iOS are more like technical proof-of-concepts than finished applications.

That's why the Surface Pro is so attractive. On a software and hardware level, at least, it really does require no compromises. The Core i5 processor is fast, storage is expandable and the majority of Windows graphics applications run just fine. 

Unfortunately, there's a wide gap between an application "running" and it being practical to run. The Surface Pro's 10.6-inch display and 1920x1080 resolution simply render the crowded interfaces of most creative apps too small to be useful.

Despite tweaking the resolution of my pen, it still requires a lot of effort to target the precise item in most pull-down menus and icons can be indecipherable at such small sizes.

Until more Modern UI applications are released, it's really only practical to run Sketchbook Pro or ArtRage in desktop mode.

Or so I thought, until yesterday. Not being much of a ZBrush user, I've never paid much attention to Pixologic's free sculpting tool Sculptris. But after installing it and determining that it would run, I was thrilled to see its elegant, spartan interface with big touch-friendly icons. 

Could a free app really be the 3d doodling tool I've been dreaming about since I first touched an iPhone? Only time will tell, but I'm determined to find out! 

If you're unfamiliar with Sculptris as I was, check out this video from Digital Tutors. 

Posted
AuthorRick Rodriguez